What Sleeping Aids Are Safe During Pregnancy?

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Well-meaning well-wishers like to encourage new moms-to-be to "get all the sleep you can now," since it'll be sparse once a demanding newborn arrives. However, as any pregnant woman knows, sleeping while pregnant, especially during the later months, is not as easy as it sounds. The size of the woman's stomach makes it difficult to get comfortable, and frequent heartburn and trips to the bathroom all contribute to many uncomfortable nights. Fortunately, there are some ways to get a good night's rest.

Over the Counter Medications

The over-the-counter drugs Doxyalamine and Diphenhydramine hydrochloride--sold most commonly as Sominex, Unisom and Benadryl--are generally considered to be safe for use during pregnancy. However, drowsiness is merely a side effect, and not the primary effect of the drug; these drugs are most commonly used as antihistamines, used to relieve the symptoms of allergies.

Prescription Sleep Aids

Most studies advise against using prescription sleep aids; however, some doctors will prescribe some prescription medications, such as Ambien, Sonata or Lunestra, in severe case cases of insomnia. These medications have both been given a Class C rating by the Federal Drug Administration, meaning studies of the drug have not been conducted on on pregnant women, but studies on animals may show the potential for harm to the fetus. Drugs in this class should be avoided unless the benefits of using the drug clearly outweigh the risks. Speak with your doctor first; it may even serve you well to get a second opinion before risking the drug intake.

Relaxation Techniques

A relaxed mom is a well-rested mom. Yoga, stretching, massage, deep breathing ,and guided imagery--picturing yourself in a relaxing, quiet scene--may help relax the muscles and calm the mind.

Excercise

Pregnant or not, exercise helps anyone get a good night's sleep. Just be sure not to exercise too close to bedtime, since exercising less than four hours before bedtime can actually keep you awake and prevent a deep sleep.

Have a Drink

A drink of warm milk or herbal tea may help relax you enough to get to sleep. Some studies have questioned the benefits of this technique. However, if you believe it will work--or make it a part of a quiet night-time ritual that includes a warm bath and other relaxation techniques--it can't hurt.

Pillows

A well-placed pillow or pillows can help support the back and belly, making a pregnant woman more comfortable. Wedge-shaped pillows help a pregnant women lie on her side, and they can also be used to help prop her into a semi-reclined position. A full-length body pillow will cradle her belly and support her back .

Recommendations

Avoid sleep medications whenever possible during pregnancy; opt instead for a non-pharmaceutical solution for insomnia. Discuss any medications--including over-the-counter drugs, prescription sleep aids, and herbal remedies--with your doctor before taking sleeping aids.

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